letters 08.10.2008

Why Not Obama

Michael O’Neill, in his letter to the editor, “Obama? Why Not?” (July 27), submitted a perfect parody of the uncatechized and unevangelized Catholics John Paul II hoped to reach. Mr. O’Neill has got them pegged. Nice job.

Wait. ... It wasn’t a parody? Oh dear.

Well, my fellow Catholics, then Mr. O’Neill has done well to show us the work we need to do, both within ourselves and with helping other Catholics grasp even the fundamentals.

Now, in response to Mr. O’Neill, who lauds nationalized health care, and his understanding that rational decisions need to be made in allocating care and resources: Sure, that’s right, including the many “rational” decisions that we Catholics have been opposing forever, such as euthanasia, abortion, eugenics, embryo harvesting and the commoditization of children through in vitro fertilization industry — all eminently rational health care services uninterested in the moral guidance of the Catholic Church.

And it’s funny how often those who talk about following one’s own conscience typically fail to include the words “properly formed,” nor acknowledge the authority of the magisterium in the ordering of the items that should take priority in a properly formed conscience.

That formation can be a life-long project for some of us; it takes a lot of humility. But it doesn’t take long to recognize that while many Catholics may support Obama, the basis of their support is not authentically or even convincingly “Catholic” in nature.

Monica Rafie

Northwoods, Illinois

Bioethics Resource

I was disappointed that in your July 20 article on the National Institutes of Health training for bioethicists, “Red Flags,” you did not list The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD) as a resource for information.

The CBHD is co-sponsored by a number of trustworthy medical-legal organizations and has presented a Christian perspective on bioethics for 15 years.

In addition to the annual conference, CBHD offers classes in bioethics and, in conjunction with Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., a master’s in bioethics can be attained. A vast number of publications on issues in bioethics have been produced by the center.

I have attended 10 of the conferences, and two years ago I embarked on the path to my master’s in bioethics. I have found all its programs to be grounded in sound Christian principles and, while evangelical in nature, there has been a strong reference to and reliance on the teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to bioethics and natural law. Many of the presenters are true magisterial Catholics and a high-ranking member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sits on their board of advisers.

CBHD merits the attention of anyone serious about pursuing the study of bioethics.

Marianne Linane

Respect Life Director

Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas

Voting Logic

Let’s see if I follow the logic of the Catholics who support Barack Obama: Sure, they say, John McCain has a pro-life voting record while Obama has promised to do everything in his power to promote abortion and “gay rights,” including appointing judges and Supreme Court justices who will issue edicts persecuting the Church — but what could McCain do if he’s elected president?

After all, pro-abortion and pro-“gay rights” Democrats control the House and Senate, and they will block any effort to protect the unborn.

The obvious solution to that problem would be to elect pro-life and pro-family representatives and senators.

“But there are other issues,” Obama Catholics insist. For instance, there’s Iraq, where, for two years, war hero McCain has advocated for the “surge,” while Obama has called for retreat.

Obama still calls for retreat, but now he adds that a retreat won’t hurt the Iraqis because the “surge” that he fought against for two years has defeated al-Qaida in Iraq.

The way I look at it, no matter who gets elected, we working-class types will suffer economically. So, I’ll vote on the social issues.

Don Schenk

Allentown, Pennsylvania


An old story holds that a hunter and his dog went into the wilderness and took shelter in a cave after the advent of a violent storm lasting several days. Hungry, the hunter took out his knife, cut off his dog’s tail, roasted it, and gave the dog a little bite. The dog licked his master’s hand in gratitude.

Many pro-lifers are like that, as we have not demanded full protection for the unborn for many years, and when the establishment gives us a small bit, we lick their hands in gratitude and continue with thinking to the effect of the gradualism we have just received will now lead us further to the goal of total protection.

Obama is clearly anti-life, in contrast to McCain, who has thrown a few bones at us but advocated for embryonic research during his South Carolina campaign. Were the issue different, such as refusing women the vote and right to own property, would we still apply gradualism?

Russell S. Pond

Nashua, New Hampshire

Editor’s note: Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae (The Value and Inviolability of Human Life), “when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” Your own example seems to support the Pope’s point. Historically, women did gain their rights gradually.

Moral vs. Civic Duty

The Register’s editorial “Catholics and Obama,” plus Father Neuhaus’ “Response to Doug Kmiec” (July 13), persuasively argue that individuals, especially Catholics, must take into account Barack Obama’s “extreme position of pro-abortion advocacy.”

Most evangelicals would agree. I agree. Even our Declaration of Independence clearly states that governments are instituted to secure the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Yet, many serious Catholics will still support and vote for Barack Obama. Why? Because a president’s sworn duty is to protect the Constitution, and the Constitution says nothing about the start of human life in the womb. The Preamble only commands “We the People” to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Hence, it leaves unresolved the secular conundrum of a woman’s liberty vs. the right to life for the unborn.

Although we Catholics have a moral obligation to oppose abortion, our civic duty is to vote for a president who will uphold the Constitution. These are separate obligations. If Catholics confuse them and insist on only voting for candidates with moral positions approved by the Church, then they effectively remove themselves from the political process.

Killing the unborn is a great evil, but there are greater evils. We should not focus on locking only one gate of hell, while many others swing freely on their hinges. Because of this, I support Barack Obama. My conscience has anxiety, yes, but it is informed, free and convinced that the secular world will only be won by reason on the abortion issue, and not by our dogma, no matter how fiercely we hold it.

Dan Biezad

San Luis Obispo, California

Editor’s note: Don’t forget that the right to life is one of the “unalienable” founding principles of America. As Kmiec put it: “The Constitution was intended as a means to enforce and guarantee the unalienable right to life recited in the Declaration of Independence, where of course it is explicitly traced to our Creator.” Even if what you say were true, and a “civic duty” to the Constitution somehow trumps our “moral obligation” to preserve life (which strikes us as an argument for the worst kind of tyranny) it wouldn’t apply in this case, since the right to life is a principle at the core of our “civic duty” as well.

Freedom Trampled

Every supporter of democracy should bristle upon reading the July 6 article, “Canada’s ‘Thought Police,’” regarding section 13.1 of the country’s Human Rights Act.

This act is being used by our North American neighbors to prevent their people from publicly expressing moral convictions. Specifically, the act prohibits the electronic dissemination of “hate messages.”

The article references the legislation’s definition of “hate messages”: “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

Although it is our duty to protect people from discrimination, section 13.1 ironically tramples the most basic of human rights: freedom of expression.

Particularly distressing is the fact that this legislation is mainly being used to prevent priests and other people of faith from speaking out against ideas in opposition to Catholic doctrine, which presents a double threat to basic human rights. Not only does it threaten one’s freedom of speech, but it also prohibits the free expression of one’s religion.

Thank God these are still guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

If interpreted objectively, this piece of legislation would make it illegal for bloggers to express the anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and generally anti-Christian sentiments that vigorously course the veins of cyberspace. However, that was not the motive of the backers of section 13.1.

We must remain vigilant against similar legislation in the U.S.

Jackie Berry

Northfield, Ohio